Representatives of Scottish livestock producers have united behind a call for Scotland’s farmers to impose an immediate ban on imports of cattle and sheep from mainland Europe in light of the worsening disease situation. And they are looking for livestock producers in England and Wales to support that stance.
Earlier this week, officials confirmed that a new strain of the devastating livestock disease bluetongue had been found in Holland. Bluetongue is a viral infection of cattle and sheep, with the virus transmitted between animals by midges.
The discovery of the strain BTV6, on farms on the Dutch/German border means that three strains of bluetongue are currently active in Northern Europe at this time. As well as BTV6, cases of BTV1 and BTV8 are increasing daily. Last autumn, BTV8 was discovered in England. Although no new cases of disease have been discovered in England this year, a number of imported animals have been brought in to the country with bluetongue. Although guaranteed to be free of disease, these animals subsequently tested positive on arrival in Great Britain.
Each strain of bluetongue requires a specific vaccine. Scotland’s own proactive vaccination campaign against BTV8 starts on 3 November and is vital to protecting our livestock against this strain.
However, the presence of two other strains on mainland Europe has led the call from NFU Scotland, Scottish Beef Cattle Association, National Beef Association (Scotland) and National Sheep Association (Scotland) for Scotland and its producers to ban all imports from Europe now. These organisations are looking for producers in England and Wales to make a similar stand.
NFU Scotland Vice-president Nigel Miller said:
“Bluetongue is a horrible disease which can bring death and devastation to any cattle herd or sheep flock that becomes infected. The reality is that we no longer have a clear idea where the disease is active in mainland Europe, existing control measures on the continent are breaking down and cases of bluetongue continue to soar. On top of that, Europe has the complexity of dealing with three different strains of this dreadful disease.
“Scotland is on the cusp of a vaccination campaign that will protect our livestock from one particular strain of the disease. We know that BTV8 presents the greatest threat to Scottish livestock and producers should discuss with their vets the arrangements for the forthcoming compulsory vaccination campaign, starting on November 3.
“But we cannot stress enough that the vaccine we will use in Scotland to protect ourselves against BTV8 will not be effective against BTV1 or the new danger of BTV6. To protect ourselves against these forms of the disease we must implement an immediate ban on imports from Europe now and we call on our fellow producers in England and Wales to do likewise.
“We also want the Scottish Government to continue to look at all the options available to it to legally prevent the importation of animals from high risk areas in Europe into Scotland. Current safeguards that animals from Europe are free from disease are not working, the system is breaking down and the threat from bluetongue continues to grow. All animals imported from Europe continue to be tested for all strains of bluetongue but the growing threat is such that further action on tightening up the European regulations must be sought if those countries free of active disease are to be better protected.”
• At the Scottish Government’s Animal Health and Welfare Stakeholders meeting in Edinburgh on Tuesday, 28 October, NFU Scotland, Scottish Beef Cattle Association, National Beef Association (Scotland) and National Sheep Association (Scotland) presented the following statement to Scottish Government officials.
“The recent unexpected discovery of BTV6 in the Netherlands has raised the level of concern surrounding bluetongue transmission throughout Europe yet further. The steps taken by the Netherlands to immediately stop all exports is appreciated as an initial response and is encouraging to the industry.
“The widespread occurrence of BTV8 in Europe remains a major concern to all cattle and sheep producers in Scotland, heightened by the growing incursion of BTV1 throughout Southern France into areas already affected by the BTV8 strain of the virus.
“The discovery of BTV6, for which there is currently no available vaccine in Europe, has triggered Industry bodies to develop a common approach. Industry representatives today agreed to support an immediate ban on all imports of susceptible animals into Scotland from Europe. Such draconian controls must be supported by the industry until the European Commission is able to complete its planned review of movement and zoning controls and introduces robust methods of controlling movements across national borders.
“The extensive spread of BTV8 has been exacerbated by poor controls over animal movements and we are in a situation where we can no longer be sure where the different strains of bluetongue are in Europe. It is also unclear how BTV6 found its way into Europe.
“Until we can be certain of the extent and distribution of the numerous strains of BTV and be clear of the route of transmission into free areas, Scotland’s livestock industry bodies call on all Scottish livestock keepers to respect a total ban on further imports of susceptible animals. They call for the introduction of robust controls across national borders before reconsidering this position.
“NFU Scotland, the Scottish Beef Cattle Association and Scottish representatives from the National Sheep Association and the National Beef Association support this position. All bodies are committed to working with partner organisations throughout the UK to develop a common industry approach.”
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